After a weekend shortened by a weather delay, the East Carolina University (8-5, 0-0 AAC) softball team scored two big wins in its double header against The University of Pittsburgh (5-7, 0-0 ACC) and Towson University (4-5, 0-0 CAA) Sunday morning bringing its weekend record to 3-0.
The Pirate Invitational tournament which originally was scheduled to have nine games was brought down to five after Greenville, North Carolina was hit with inclimate weather going into Thursday. With low temperatures and several inches of snow on the ground it was decided that play would be postponed until Saturday, when temperatures were predicted to reach above freezing.
“Weather in North Carolina is stressful,” head coach Courtney Oliver said after Saturday’s win. “I have to give credit to our grounds crew. They did a fantastic job. Not only did they get our field ready, but they got baseball’s (field) ready as well. This morning (Saturday) I walked out here and there was still snow on the field and I think without them the field wouldn’t be playable.”
Junior right-handed pitcher Kama Woodall pitched for the Pirates to start the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader. An early error caused the Pirates to let Towson score a run in the top of the first inning. However, the Pirates were able to get their third out and got their chance to respond. A double from redshirt senior infielder Tate McClellan sent redshirt senior utility player Rachel McCollum home to bring the Pirates to a tie at 1-1.
Neither team scored any runs in the second inning. At the top of the third inning, Towson managed to load the bases after Woodall walked a runner. Shortly after, the Tigers scored another run but were not able to get anymore as the Pirates forced their third and final out to send it into the bottom of the third.
After a double by junior infielder Chandley Garner and an error by a Towson outfielder, the Pirates scored two runs with McCollum and senior outfielder Olivia Narron, who is currently leading the American Athletic Conference in steals (eight), crossing home plate. These two runs brought the score to 3-2 with the Pirates leading.
Oliver brought junior right-handed pitcher Whitney Sanford into the circle at the top of the fourth. An out tagged at home by freshman catcher Sophia Wools kept Towson from scoring another run. The Pirates went without a run as well as closing out the fourth inning. The fifth inning showed no difference from the fourth as both teams did not manage to score.
“I credit that (progress at the plate) to Ellie Cooper, our assistant (coach),” Oliver said. “She makes sure the hitters know exactly what they are looking for and she does a great job with scouting our opponents and showing our team video...We provide them with the information and they all have gotten a different level of focus and they know what they are looking for and they are getting it.”
Towson scored a run at the top of the sixth, tying up the game. ECU was unable to respond as the Tigers ended the sixth inning with three more outs.
At the top of the seventh inning, Oliver rotated freshman right-handed pitcher Logyn Estes into the circle, for the second time of the day to finish off the game. With no scores on either side during the seventh inning the game was pushed into extra innings.
With Towson scoring two runs at the top of the eighth, the Pirates needed to respond with two runs to go into the ninth inning, or three to end the game with a Pirate victory.
The Pirates responded with a home run by Garner with McCollum running home as well at the bottom of the eighth. This tied the game up at 5-5. Immediately after Garner’s home run, McClellan stepped up to the plate, hitting another home run giving Pirates a 6-5 lead and an exciting victory to close out their undefeated home tournament stretch.
“You know I think the biggest compliment I can give is that this team is actually starting to play like a team. They are starting to realize how clutch they can be in big moments,” Oliver said. “We saw a lot more competitive at-bats especially with two strikes and that's something that we have worked on all week so I’m very pleased with our at-bats.”
The Pirates started their first game of the day with Estes in the circle. Despite Pitt getting two hits to gain bases, the Pirates never allowed a score and soon flipped the field to go to bat. Pitt, in turn, held ECU from scoring in the bottom of the first.
The Pirates made quick work of the top of the second inning, once again holding Pitt from scoring any runs. In the bottom of the second Ledvina hit a double to center field, then went on to steal third. With a homerun hit made by Estes, the Pirates scored two runs ending the inning with 2-0 on the board.
After completing the top of the third in a similar fashion as the first two, ECU got two hits in the bottom of the third when Estes hit yet another homerun. This hit scored the Pirates three more runs bringing their lead to 5-0.
In the bottom of the fourth a single from Narron and a homerun from McCollum brought another two runs to the Pirate scoreboard. The fourth homerun of the game was hit by McClellan. Another run scored by Inae brought the score to 9-0.
“We worked hard this past week on hitting live off our own pitchers and I think we felt good going into this weekend,” McClellan said.
After only one run scored by Pitt in the top of the fifth, the game was called and ECU won 9-1. This win gave the Pirates their second of three wins for the Pirate Invitational.
The Pirates will be back in action on Friday when they will travel to Lynchburg, Virgina for the Liberty Softball Classic. First pitch will be at 1 p.m. against Butler University (8-3, 0-0 Big East).